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Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Whether you love them or hate them, it’s hard to deny that Vikings are insanely cool. The Viking era lasted from about 793  – 1066 AD, and the lore surrounding these ancient people is fascinating. Not all of the stereotypes about Vikings are accurate, however. Keep reading to find out which Viking myths are real, and which are pop culture embellishments. 

Myth #1: Vikings wore those goofy horned helmets.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

viking helmet
Replica Viking helmet, “The Vikings Begin” exhibit, Nordic Museum, Seattle, Washington, U.S. Photo by Joe Mabel

No one is entirely sure how this rumor became so securely cemented in our portrayal of vikings, but the classic horned Viking helmet wasn’t actually a thing. While earlier Norsemen did wear horned helmets for cultural ceremonies, the Viking era was decidedly horned-hat-free. They did have helmets for combat, just not with horns. 

Myth #2: They were basically pirates.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction…mostly

Technically speaking word Viking is derived from a Scandinavian term, “viking”, which does mean pirate. The meaning behind it, however, is totally different from the modern definition of piracy. Then, it meant a person who explored the high seas. Going “a Viking” was more a verb than a title, and it meant far more than mindless theft and violence. 

Myth #3: Vikings were uncivilized brutes.

Fact or Fiction: Total fiction

Yet again, pop culture did Vikings dirty- literally. Modern representations often portray Vikings as filthy, ruthless war machines. While they were remarkable warriors, they were actually among the more civilized peoples of their era. They were shockingly focused on personal hygiene. A number of items like combs, razors, and tweezers have been found at Viking sites. They also bathed weekly or more, which was exceptional compared to most Europeans at the time. 

They were ahead of the equality curve, too. While girls did get married at a disturbingly young age, they had considerably more freedom than women from other cultures. Aside from thralls, or slaves, Viking women had the right to request divorces, reclaim their dowries, and inherit property. 

Myth #4: They wrote using ancient runes.

Fact or Fiction: Fact

Vikings had their very own alphabet. If you’ve ever watched “The Lord of the Rings” movie series, the runes from the movie are surprisingly similar to real Viking runes. The Vikings recorded historical events into large rocks, which later became known as rune stones. These stones helped tell modern historians much of what we now know about ancient Scandinavian culture.

Myth #5: They were ruthless warriors.

Fact or Fiction: A little of both

Vikings weren’t peaceful, but they weren’t senseless killers either. Their reputation to be killing machines began after a raid on the monks of Lindisfarne. The monks there were killed or captured, the church pillaged, and the library burned. This was the start of the Viking migration from Scandinavia, and it gave them a harsh reputation of being a crude people with no respect for religion or knowledge.

They didn’t do much to dispel that assumption. They conducted raids on countless cities, monasteries and coastal villages. Still, there were two plausible reasons for their plundering habits. 

Firstly, they were NOT devoid of culture or religion; they just weren’t Christian, and they were frequently persecuted for it. Forced baptism and other unfortunate practices led to tension between pagan Vikings and their Christian neighbors. Secondly, the harsh winter conditions of their homeland made it difficult for them to survive without the “help” of towns with more plentiful resources. 

They didn’t always destroy towns, however. After initial raids, Vikings often imposed a tax called Danegeld on their victims. Towns could avoid further attacks by paying up, providing a slightly less dark means of survival for the Vikings.

Myth #6: Vikings were a formal group.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Vikings weren’t actually a formal nation. The term Viking covers all the Scandinavian peoples who engaged in overseas exploration and warfare. Vikings were composed of tribes from what is now Sweden, Denmark and Norway. The tribes didn’t live in harmony, either. When they weren’t fighting other nations, they were fighting each other.

Myth #7: Vikings were all about war. 

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

This really comes down to your definition of Viking, honestly. If you mean Viking explorers then sure, they spent a lot of time in battle. If you’re just talking about ancient Scandinavians during the Viking era, then you’d be dead wrong. Most of the people of the era were farmers, not fighters. While their aggressive counterparts razed villages, they raised livestock and grew oats and barley for the winter months. 

They also liked to have fun. They developed early skis, similar to those invented in Russia at a similar time. It became an efficient way to get around their icy homeland, and they enjoyed it so much that they worshipped a skiing god named Ullr.

Myth #8: Viking ships were next-level.

Viking ship
A Viking ship at a museum in Oslo, Norway. Image by Larry Lamsa

Fact or Fiction: Definitely fact

As much as Vikings were known for destruction, they had a great deal to contribute as well. For over 1000 years, the Norse honed the craft of ship-building. They made a wide range of vessels, and they’re responsible for inventing the keel. The keel made boats faster and more stable, which allowed the Vikings to travel longer, faster, and farther across the Atlantic than any before them.

Their most famous ships featured a series of oars and a large, red, woolen sail. They were also strikingly beautiful. Ship-crafting was an art to the Vikings. Their vessels boasted finely carved dragon heads for good luck. 

Myth #9: People were born into the Viking life.

Fact or Fiction: Fiction

Referring back to number six and seven, being a Viking was less a nationality than a career choice. Young Scandinavians could choose to become farmers, or they could choose to become Vikings. The only reason you hear more about Norse Vikings than Norse farmers is pretty simple; decapitating people is way more thrilling to read about than herding sheep. 

Myth #10: They buried their dead at sea.

Fact or Fiction: Mostly fiction.

While the visual of sending a lost loved one out to sea, shooting a flaming arrow into the ship, and watching it burn into a final sunset, is dramatic as hell, it’s not very realistic. Most Viking burials were much less elaborate. Norsemen were often buried in large burial mounds with their prized possessions or cremated in ceremonial pyres. Some of the mounds were made in the shape of a ship, however, to represent their safe journey to the afterlife. 

Can’t get enough of Viking lore? Read about one of the most feared Vikings of all time here.

Articles

8 life lessons from ‘Forrest Gump’ legend Lt. Dan

Gary Sinise has had a very successful film and television career spanning over four decades.


Sinise starred on the long-running TV series “CSI: NY” and worked on major motion pictures such as “Apollo 13” and “Ransom.” Sinise is a big supporter of the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. He frequently tours across military bases all around the world entertaining troops with his cover band “The Lt. Dan Band.”

Of course, the actor is most remembered for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 Academy Award winning film “Forrest Gump.”

In the movie, Lt. Dan is a straight-forward Army officer who comes from a long line of military tradition. In the film, it was said that every one of his relatives had served and died in every American war.

Throughout the picture, we see the character evolve into various stages showing anger, depression, acceptance and redemption.

The character is an important part of Forrest Gump’s life and his own development throughout the film. The role earned Sinise his only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Here are eight valuable life lessons from our favorite Lieutenant:

1. Take care of your feet

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction
(YouTube Screen Grab)

The first time we see Lt. Dan is in Vietnam when Gump, played by the legendary Tom Hanks, and his best friend Bubba report to their new unit.

Lieutenant Dan comes out of his quarters and introduces himself to the duo. After some small talk, the officer tells them that there is one item of GI gear that can be the “difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt.” He then say “socks” and he stresses the importance of keeping their feet dry when out on patrol.

Clearly Lt. Dan was a student of history. In World War I, many Soldiers suffered from trench foot, a serious problem when feet are damp and unsanitary. If left untreated trench foot can lead to gangrene and amputation.

Our feet are so vital in our everyday life. Listen to Lt. Dan! Change your socks and keep your feet dry.

2. Knowing your destiny

Lt. Dan knew he wanted to be a Soldier.

It was Lt. Dan’s destiny to die in combat for his country. As morbid as it may sound, this is what the character envisioned as his life’s purpose.

Many people do not know what they were put on this earth to do. Many people give up on their dreams never achieving them. Say what you want about Lt. Dan’s destiny, but it was clear what he wanted to achieve in his life.

3. Overcoming self-doubt

After Forrest Gump saved Lt. Dan’s life, Sinise’s character felt cheated out of his purpose. Laying in a hospital bed after his legs were amputated, Lt. Dan holds a lot of self-doubt asking Gump “what am I going to do now?”

His feeling of hopelessness is something many of us experience in life for various circumstances and situations. His doubts remain throughout the movie as the character goes through changes in his life and gathers new perspectives along the way.

Eventually Lt. Dan recognizes that he cannot let his insecurities hinder him. As you will see later on, Lt. Dan sets out new goals to accomplish and eventually stops his self-loathing.

4. Sticking up for your friends

While it seemed Lt. Dan always gave Gump a hard time, deep down he valued the friendship of his former Soldier.

This is clear in a scene where Lt. Dan sticks up for Gump during a New Year’s Eve after party in a New York hotel room. The character backs up his friend after two women start to mock Gump by calling him “stupid.”

Lieutenant Dan kicks them out of the room and tells them to never call him stupid. That is a true friend!

5. Keeping your word

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction
Just remember to pull into the dock before you jump off the boat.

During their time in New York, Gump told Lt. Dan he was going to become a shrimp boat captain in order to keep a promise to his friend and fallen comrade Bubba.

Lieutenant Dan vowed if Gump became a shrimp boat captain the wounded warrior would become his first mate. As the movie progress, we find Gump on board his very own shrimp boat.

The new captain sees his longtime friend on the pier one day while on his boat. In one of the most iconic and hilarious scenes in the Academy Award winning picture, Gump jumps from his boat while it’s still steaming forward to greet Lt. Dan.

When Hanks’ character asked Lt. Dan what he was doing there, he said he wanted to try out his “sea legs” and would keep his word to become Gump’s first mate. It is important to keep your promises!

6. Making peace with himself

The Lt. Dan character lived in a world of bitterness and hatred for so many years. But serving as Gump’s first mate made him appreciate his life. Although the Lt. Dan character always seemed to be a bit rough around the edges, he showed his heartfelt side when he finally thanked Gump for saving his life during the war.

After thanking him, Sinise’s character jumps into the water and begins to swim while looking up to the sky. The symbolism in the scene is clear here as he washing away all of those years of hate and accepted a new path.

7. Invest your money

Lieutenant Dan invested the money from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation in a “fruit” company. That company of course was Apple. This life lesson is pretty simple. If you can invest some money wisely go for it! You just might become a “gazillionaire.”

8. The joys of life

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction
And that’s all we got to say about that!

At the end of the film, we see a clean shaven Lt. Dan walking with his prosthetic legs, which Gump referred to as “magic legs.” With his fiancé by his side, Lt. Dan has a new lease on life.

Much like Lt. Dan, we all encounter ups and downs throughout our lives in one form or another. However, all of those experiences are part of the journey that can make life joyful in the end.

This is clear when Sinise’s character looks at Gump and gives him a big smile.

And that’s all we got to say about that!

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Watch this soldier pull off the ultimate homecoming surprise at the State of the Union

We’ve all seen the surprise homecomings at baseball games, school gymnasiums and countless other places. But never before have we seen one like this: a Fort Bragg soldier surprised his family at the State of the Union address, and President Trump was in on it.


President Trump remarked, “War places a heavy burden on our Nation’s extraordinary military families, especially spouses like Amy Williams from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and her two children: 6-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Rowan.” Amy, seated next to First Lady Melania Trump, stood up with her kids to be recognized as President Trump continued.

“Amy works full time and volunteers countless hours helping other military families,” he explained. “For the past seven months, she has done it all while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to the Middle East.”

“Amy’s kids haven’t seen their father’s face in many months. Amy, your family’s sacrifice makes it possible for all of our families to live in safety and in peace and we want to thank you. Thank you, Amy.”

Amy was immediately given a standing ovation while she looked as though she was simply trying to hold it all together. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, President Trump said, “But Amy, there is one more thing.”

Watch the ultimate homecoming surprise:

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

New technology keeps survival specialists out of ‘the danger zone’

An Air Force Research Laboratory team recently delivered version 2.0 of the Survival Health Awareness Responders Kit to instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis, Texas, a 28,000-acre site used to train survival, evasion, resistance, and escape specialists.

With SHARK, sensors are embedded into shirts to transmit key metrics including heart rate and estimated core temperature from smartphones to a server. As students undergo physical endurance tests during extended periods of isolation, the system allows instructors to monitor the data in real-time and issues alerts for heart rate spikes and significant increases in temperature. Since the device identifies the user’s location, medical personnel can quickly respond to those in need of care.

Second Lt. Matthew Dickinson, AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing biomechanical engineer, said SHARK 2.0 is user-friendly and more secure. He explained instructors and students are pleased with the streamlined setup process and the new web interface.


Maj. Toby Andrews, 66th Training Squadron, Detachment 3 commander, said he appreciates that SHARK “gives (instructors) real-time alerts on the health and well-being of students.” The system “truly eases my mind as a commander,” he said since it “allows us to provide preventative care (in cases) that could otherwise lead to serious medical situations.”

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Staff Sgt. Randall Moss and Master Sgt. William Davis,16th Airlift Squadron loadmasters, sort through survival equipment during a survival, evasion, resistance and escape exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

Prior to SHARK, instructors checked on trainees at regular intervals to ensure their well-being. In certain cases, they administer ice baths to students with elevated body temperatures, said Tech. Sgt. John Garcia, a SERE instructor. However, since the introduction of this monitoring technology, zero ice baths have been required because the system alerts instructors before students reach what they call “the danger zone.”

To develop version 2.0, the SHARK team enlisted the help of Cedarville University students majoring in computer science. Loren Baum, who now works full time at 711th HPW, improved the code for his senior design project. He optimized the software, added functionality, enhanced security measures and streamlined the startup process.

Baum explained the team moved SHARK from the mobile app arena to the web to make the system usable in a wider variety of scenarios. With the new approach, instructors simply log into a website from any computer to monitor students’ health status instead of launching an application, which requires installation and manual upgrades.

The team simplified the startup process with Quick Response codes that automatically input students’ information when scanned, Baum said. This measure reduced the total setup time from one hour to five minutes and makes it easier for students and instructors to begin a new session.

In June 2019, the team traveled to JB San Antonio-Camp Bullis and conducted initial tests with version 2.0. Once the team integrated additional software improvements, SERE instructors officially launched the upgrade in September 2019.

The SHARK team continues to work with other squadron key leaders to address related needs. One such application involves using the included heart rate variability measurement to provide real-time feedback regarding students’ reactions to various training stressors.

This data would enable instructors to evaluate the effectiveness of interrogation techniques and determine the extent to which they affect individuals, said 1st Lt. David Feibus, a former software team lead who is now a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

A 437th Operations Support Squadron survival, evasion, resistance and escape specialist walks across a dirt road during a SERE exercise in North, South Carolina Aug. 21, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Duncan C. Bevan)

While SHARK is useful in various situations, Air Force instructors currently rely on this tool to offer “strenuous exercises in the safest manner possible,” said Ted Harmer, a 711th HPW engineer who also leads a medical readiness personnel recovery training research team. When administering physical tests, instructors must achieve the purpose of the training and minimize negative impacts, whether they be physical or emotional, he explained.

SHARK technology was born when the U.S. Air Force Survival School at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, opted to include more proactive safety measures in its training programs. Since AFRL had experience with wearable monitoring technology, leadership from 711th HPW offered to develop a solution for the SERE instructors during an immersion visit.

“Going in, we knew we needed a broad range of skill sets,” said Dr. James Christensen, a product line lead within the 711th HPW. He explains that to produce an effective system, the team relied on expertise in wearable devices, electronics, software development, communications, human factors and physiology.

“We pulled together capabilities from several different parts of the organization to assemble the sensors, develop the software to pull sensor data together and then build the communications capability to then send that data and be able to monitor it continuously and remotely.”

Following the initial design and development, the team arranged field tests with end-users. Several team members lived with JBSA-Camp Bullis instructors for one week to test SHARK 1.0 in 2018. Now, a year later, an upgraded system is in the field.

In the meantime, the SHARK team is also working with other groups who are interested in acquiring this technology including firefighters, NASA scientists, and Army special forces. Members are currently exploring a version of the system that the Department of Defense Fire Academy can use under fire protection gear to prevent heat injuries.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

You have to watch ‘Captain Marvel’ before ‘Avengers: Endgame’

If you’re thinking about skipping Captain Marvel and going straight to Avengers: Endgame, think again. Early reviews of Captain Marvel say that the movie is not only fantastic but that it will be essential viewing for anyone going to see the next installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s the early consensus, totally free of spoilers for the movie.

Eric Eisenberg, of CinemaBlend, said the movie has “surprises” that audiences won’t see coming.


Steve Weintraub at Collider said the movie made him “So ready for Avengers: Endgame.”

Meanwhile, Anna Klausen of Newsweek, Bustle and The Daily Beastsaid, moviegoers, should “watch closely” for “lots of fun Easter eggs” and links to the “history and other films in the MCU.”

At this point, critics who have seen the movie aren’t able to reveal any spoilers for the film, so what we’re seeing now is general impressions of the film. Elsewhere in the universe, a smattering of trolls who have not seen the film yet are trying to destroy the Rotten Tomatoes Score of Captain Marvel before the movie is released. Several publications have already likened this sexist campaign to what happened around the time The Last Jedi was released. Needless to say, if someone hasn’t seen the movie, and they’re trashing it, we don’t have to spend much time thinking about their opinion.

For the rest of us, it sounds like Captain Marvel might not be a perfect movie, but then again, none of these superhero movies really ever are. And for those of us who have daughters — or just like to see heroes who aren’t dudes — Brie Larson as Carol Danvers can’t come soon enough.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 more comic book creators who served their country

If there’s any single artistic medium that draws in a remarkable amount of veterans, it’s comic books. Oftentimes, it takes the mind of someone who has served in the military to create a truly believable, relatable superhero.

It’s widely known that many of the godfathers of the comic book industry served in the U.S. military. Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Syd Shores, for example, all fought in the Western Front in WWII. But many of the other writers and artists served, too — like these 6 creative minds.


Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

(Courtesy Photo)

Jim Starlin — Navy

Many of Marvel’s space-themed comics come from the mind of Vietnam War photographer and Navy veteran Jim Starlin. After returning home to Detroit, he initially made a living working on cars. Eventually, he broke into the comic book industry with many originals and revisions to existing cosmic characters.

Drax the Destroyer, Gamora, and even Thanos were all co-created by him. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ultimate MacGuffins, the Infinity Stones, and the much of the basis for the latest blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, come from Starlin’s storylines.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Humbly enough, she never wrote herself into a comic… even though she kinda earned it.

(Courtesy Photo)

Alice Marble — OSS

Before becoming one of the first women to play a prominent role in comic books, Alice Marble lived an insane life. Not only was she a world-class tennis player but, during World War II, she served as a spy for the American government. She recovered from being shot in the back by a German agent and started to share her life through the adventures of Wonder Woman.

She served as the associate editor for Wonder Woman and was the creator of the Wonder Women of History strips. These shorts were page-long bookends attached to the end of each Wonder Woman issue that showcased the badassery of one woman per issue.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

He’s also responsible for making superheroes jacked as hell under their spandex.

(Photo by Alan Light)

Curt Swan — Army

DC’s most respected artist of the Silver Age served in the Minnesota National Guard during WWII. Curt Swan was activated and deployed to Europe when his peers discovered his amazing gift for drawing. He was immediately reassigned by his superiors to make comics for Stars and Stripes.

After falling in love with a Red Cross worker (who he would eventually marry), Swan got a job at DC Comics, drawing Superman from 1948 until 1986. His ability to convey frenetic superpowers in print, like the iconic wooshings that show speed or the powerful impact bubbles that denote heavy punches, was heavily imitated.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

He worked on ‘The ‘Nam’ with the next entry on this list…

(Marvel.com)

Doug Murray — Army

Doug Murray served in Vietnam and later crafted what is considered one of the truest depictions of the war through his series, The ‘Nam. Remarkably, Murray was clever enough to stay true to the horrors and ugly sides of war while also keeping the Comics Code Authority happy.

The ‘Nam wasn’t pretty and touched on many horrific truths of war, but it cleverly hid its punches to get approved for publication. Outside of The ‘Nam, Murray also wrote the Weapon X series, which gave Wolverine his definitive backstory.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

The ‘G.I. Joe’ character Tunnel Rat is entirely based on him and his life.

(Courtesy Photo)

Larry Hama — Army

After fighting in Vietnam as a combat engineer and “tunnel rat,” Larry Hama began a career in acting before coming back to his childhood passion, comic books.

Not only did he work on The Warlord, Wonder Woman, and Batman for DC, but he earned his place as one of the Marvel greats when he took over the G.I. Joe comics and turned it into the deep franchise fans love today instead of just a line of generic military toys. He also co-created The ‘Nam, Wolverine, Punisher: War Zone, and Venom.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Sgt. Rock’s service number was Kanigher’s in real life.

(DC Comics)

Bob Kanigher — Army

There was a drastic dip in comic book popularity in the 1950s that nearly destroyed the industry. Only kids and troops read comics — and kids started losing interest. The day was saved when an Army veteran by the name of Robert Kanigher burst onto the scene.

He took over Wonder Woman after William Moulton Marston’s death and ushered in the Silver Age of Comics. His works include nearly everything in DC that wasn’t created during the Golden Age. His artistic baby, however, is one of the military and veteran community’s favorite comics, Sgt. Rock.

Podcast

5 insane stories from the life of Britain’s most successful double agent

The real James Bond is finally revealed: A few years ago Larry Loftis decided to stop publishing legal articles and work full-time on researching and writing the story of Dusko Popov, the daring World War II double agent who worked tirelessly to keep the Nazis off guard about the upcoming D-Day invasions.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Stitcher | Spotify


Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

1. Popov was captured by the Nazis before he became a spy.

Dusko Popov was a student in Germany as the Nazis took power and began to persecute the German Jews. No fan of the Nazis, Popov thumbed his nose at the thugs who came to intimidate patrons of Jewish businesses. He was quickly visited by the Gestapo, who imprisoned him and tortured him for information.

He was able to escape Germany because of his family’s connections. Hermann Göering ordered his release to Yugoslavia.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Johann-Nielsen “Johnny” Jebsen

(MI5 Archives)

2. He was recruited by his best friend.

Johann-Nielsen Jebsen – known as “Johnny” – went to school with Popov. But Jebsen is from a very wealthy European family with German roots. They met each other at the university of Freiburg but where Popov was expelled from Germany, Jebsen, as a German citizen, was forced to join the Nazi war effort. He joins the Abwehr (German military intelligence) as a spy recruiter.

His first recruit is Dusko Popov and the two both became double agents for the British.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

3. He warned the U.S. about the attack on Pearl Harbor

Popov warned the FBI on Aug. 18, 1941, that the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor. Popov and his MI6 supervisor met FBI officials at the Commodore Hotel and for three hours laid out the entire plan. Popov was in the country to set up a spy ring in New York and recon the defenses at Pearl Harbor.

The attack was supposed to be a repeat of the British attack on the Italian fleet at the defended port of Taranto in 1940. The Japanese wanted to know how they could be as successful as they enter the war against the Americans. The reason President Roosevelt never saw the information will enrage you.

Check out the book (or finish this podcast) to find out!

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

4. He was critical to the success of D-Day.

The British determined that the best way to keep the Germans off guard on D-Day was to convince them that the invasion would come at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. At the risk of his life, with interrogators who were convinced that Popov was compromised by the British, Popov returned to Germany.

He gave the Nazis the false information the British wanted them to believe during multiple, marathon interrogation sessions that lasted for hours at a time over a series of days. Popov was the only spy who was interrogated by the Nazis about D-Day.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Simone Simon in 1942’s “Cat People.”

5. His real-world girlfriend was a movie star.

Just like his silver screen counterpart, James Bond, Popov had a slew of women he used for various reasons as a undercover agent for two opposing countries. But his heart belonged to just one – and she was as glamorous as the rest of his World War II life: Hollywood movie star Simone Simon.

Mandatory Fun is hosted by:

Blake Stilwell: Air Force veteran and Managing Editor

Tim Kirkpatrick: Navy veteran and Editorial Coordinator

Eric Milzarski: Army veteran and Senior Contributor

Orvelin Valle (aka O.V.): Navy veteran and Podcast Producer

Catch the show on Twitter at: @MandoFun and on our Facebook group.

Larry’s next book will be The Courier: The True Story of World War II’s Most Highly Decorated Woman, about the World War II spy heroine Odette Sansom and Captain Peter Churchill. Learn more about Larry, The Courier, and Into the Lion’s Mouth at Larry Loftis’ website. You can also follow Larry Loftis on Twitter and Facebook.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Putin tells Lukashenka Russia ready ‘to provide help’ militarily if needed

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has told Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka that Russia is ready to assist Belarus in accordance with a collective military pact, if necessary.

The Kremlin said in the same statement that external pressure was being applied to Belarus. It did not say by whom.


The two spoke on August 16 for the second time in as many days.

Belarus has been rocked by a week of street protests after protesters accused Lukashenka of rigging a presidential election on August 9.

Some 7,000 people have been detained by police across Belarus in the postelection crackdown with hundreds injured and at least two killed as police have used rubber bullets, stun grenades, and, in at least one instance, live ammunition.

Hundreds of those held and subsequently released spoke of brutal beatings they suffered in detention, much of it documented and splashed across social media. Thousands more remain in detention as international outrage mounts.

Facing the most serious threat ever to his authoritarian rule, Lukashenka spoke with Putin on August 15, after saying there was “a threat not only to Belarus.”

He later told military chiefs that Putin had offered “comprehensive help” to “ensure the security of Belarus.”

The Kremlin said the leaders agreed the “problems” in Belarus would be “resolved soon” and the countries’ ties strengthened.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How to sharpen your edge with knife-fighting

The choice to carry a knife as a means of self-defense brings with it the responsibility of learning how to use it, but just knowing how to do something doesn’t make you good at it. Skill comes from repetition through dedicated training. Attending a couple edged-weapons seminars might give you a base knowledge, but it won’t make you proficient with a blade. You must incorporate that knowledge into a regular training regimen to hone your skills.

The great thing about blade training is it can be done pretty much anywhere. Unlike firearms training, you don’t need a designated training area. You don’t need to worry about noise and backstops, and your neighbors aren’t likely to call the police if you do it in the backyard.


The greatest challenge with solo blade training is knowing where to start. Once you know how to train on your own, the possibilities become endless. The information presented here will give you some good starting points to help you develop a consistent solo training program that will sharpen your edged-weapons skills.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Some solo training tools pictured here include aluminum training blades, a shot timer, a tennis ball on a string, bubbles, and a Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Target.

Shadow shanking

Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing, with a little urban slang mixed in. It’s the act of fighting with an imaginary opponent to develop technique, timing, lines of motion, and muscle memory. It’s one of the most useful training methods for learning and training basic movements and movement patterns. There are a few different ways to implement shadow shanking into your training regimen.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Shadow shanking is the edged-weapon equivalent of shadow boxing. When done with the proper progression and mind-set, it can be a valuable training tool.

1. Working the basics

This is how you build your foundation. The best way to set this up is to stand in front of a mirror and watch yourself perform the movements. You might also want to draw a large asterisk on the mirror with lipstick or a grease pencil to give you a visual reference for the various angles of attack. You can then follow these lines with your blade.

We tend to be very unaware of ourselves. Seeing yourself moving in a mirror helps you develop a mind-body connection. It’s the reason gyms and martial arts schools are covered in mirrors. Use the mirror to correct flaws and solidify proper technique until your body knows what the right motion feels like. Go back to the mirror frequently to reinforce proper technique.

2. Free flow

Another form of shadow shanking is free flow. This is where you develop your ability to flow from one cut or thrust to another using the most efficient path for each angle of attack. Start with preset combinations to engrain paths of motion into your central nervous system. As those combinations become more fluid, you can begin linking the lines between various combinations until you’re able to free flow without thinking.

3. The ghost

Visualization is the key to fighting the ghost, a cool name for an imaginary opponent. To fight the ghost, you have to imagine an opponent as vividly as possible, seeing his every move through your mind’s eye. Visualize his attacks and react to them using footwork, evasions, defenses, interceptions, and counters. Imagine how he’s reacting to your movements and respond accordingly. This variation of shadow shanking is the most challenging, but the benefits you reap from it are invaluable.

The training post

The training post is one of the oldest and simplest combat training tools known to man. Historically known as a pell, this solid wooden post was used to practice striking, cutting, and thrusting with the sword, shield, and spear. It was the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag, and its use is recorded in historical documents dating back to the 1st century.

The training post is a vital piece of solo training equipment. Delivering cuts and thrusts against the air is great for developing basic technique, but the resistance of a solid target is necessary for conditioning the mind and body for impact. Just like a heavy bag, using the training post will strengthen your muscles and increase connective tissue resilience. Striking a solid post will challenge your grip and expose weaknesses in your technique.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Historically known as the pell, the training post is the ancient swordsman’s equivalent of a boxer’s heavy bag.

Training on a post requires very little logistics. A 6-foot pole with a sturdy base is all you need. A solid, dead tree can work just as well. It’s also a good idea to add some target markings like lines and circles to aid with working your cutting angles and thrusting accuracy.

Proper safety precautions are necessary when working the post. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes from flying pieces of wood. If you’re going to use a live blade, it’s a good idea to wear Kevlar-lined gloves to protect your hand in case it rides onto the blade during a thrust, especially if your blade doesn’t have a substantial guard.

Your best buddy “BOB”

Century’s Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training devices available. The vinyl skinned, lifelike mannequin provides all the shapes and contours of a human head and torso, making for a realistic, target-rich training environment. BOB isn’t very practical for live-blade training, at least not if you want to keep him around for a while. A synthetic or aluminum training blade, or a homemade “stubby” (knife-shaped, hard foam cutout wrapped in electrical tape), are your best options for blade work on BOB.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

The Body Opponent Bag is one of the most useful combatives training tools. Shown here with the Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard for vital target identification.

When training on the BOB, focus on targeting and precision. Work the eyes, neck, throat, lungs, and abdomen with various thrusts and cuts. It’s easy to forget you have two hands during weapons training, so take advantage of the liveliness of the BOB and emphasize the use of both hands by incorporating empty-hand strikes, checks, and grabs with your live hand (the hand not holding the blade). Move around the mannequin and work as many angles as possible.

Another way to up your game on the BOB is with anatomical drilling. This form of training involves the use of a Dionisio Zapatero anatomical rash guard in conjunction with the BOB. The purpose is to identify the anatomical location of vital targets on the body in order to increase your ability to recognize target landmarks. This particular method was developed with the input of this author and popularized by Scott Babb in the Libre Fighting System.

Rubber Dummy mayhem

The Rubber Dummies 3D Silhouette Body Target is a self-healing rubber target designed for close-quarters firearms application, but has proven effective for edged weapons training as well. Filipino martial arts practitioners have long employed used automobile tires in various configurations to practice stick and blade combatives.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and BOB into one device, able to withstand the abuse of a live blade while offering human target features.

The Rubber Dummy puts a modern twist on this solo training concept with its three-dimensional human shape and tire-like, hard rubber texture. The Rubber Dummy combines many elements of the training post and the BOB into one training device. The Rubber Dummy can withstand the abuse from a live blade, while offering human target features. Cuts and stabs leave visible markings on the renewable “skin” (applied with spray paint), yielding instant feedback.

Speed drilling

Speed drilling is a broad category of solo training with many variations. The purpose is to develop speed, efficiency, and accuracy. For solo training, using a programmable shot timer in conjunction with a suitable striking target, such as the ones mentioned above, works extremely well. The idea is to program the shot timer using delayed start and perform the action within a set par-time parameter. Striking a target that makes an audible sound, like a balloon or X-ray paper will signal the shot timer to record the split, letting you see your actual hit time.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

A programmable shot timer and a quality training blade are excellent tools for developing speed and accuracy.

Speed drill progression should look something like this: Begin drilling from a ready position with your blade in hand and address the target at the sound of the beep. Then, perform the drill from a neutral position with the blade in hand. Next, deploy the blade from its carry location and engage from a ready position. Finally, deploy and engage from a neutral position.

Speed drilling with the aid of a shot timer adds stress and challenges you to leave your comfort zone. It pushes you to the edge of failure, so you can recognize how fast you can move without compromising your accuracy or control of your weapon. Always use training blades for these types of drills.

Ball on a string

Striking a simple ball on a free-hanging string can be one of the most challenging solo drills for edged-weapons training, and it’s also one of the cheapest and easiest tools to set up. Attach a ball to a string and hang it up — that’s it. The weight and size of the ball and the length of the string are variables you can vary to change the level of difficulty. Let the ball swing freely and work your cutting and thrusting angles as the ball swings toward you. Don’t forget to include footwork. That’s about all there is to this simple but effective drill.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Bubble buster

Who hasn’t at some point in their life run around poking bubbles out of the air with their finger? It was fun when you were a kid, and it’s even more fun with a knife. Borrow your kid’s bubble machine and go to town. You’ll have random targets floating all around you, so you’ll have to move up and down, side to side, back and forth, and turn around. If a bubble hits you, it means you’ve been tagged, so keep moving and pop them before they land on you. The one caveat is you have to be precise with your blade, no wild swinging or flailing about.

Putting it all together

The less effort involved in setting up a training drill, the more likely we are to do it, especially when we’re limited on time. The training tools and drills presented here take very little effort to set up. Most can be left in place wherever you set them up, meaning you can quickly visit them and get in some quality repetitions within 5 or 10 minutes. Practice makes permanent, so focus on getting quality repetitions.

Physical preparation is only half the equation when it comes to any deadly force issue. Mental preparation is just as important, if not more so. You must train your mind to deal with the emotional trauma that comes with a violent physical assault. Rather than mindlessly performing countless repetitions, consider incorporating visualization into your solo training. Work through various attack/response scenarios in your mind as you do your drills. This will help prepare you to perform under stress and reduce the likelihood that you’ll freeze during a violent encounter.

Training resource links:

This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US Navy stared down China in the South China Sea

Two US Navy destroyers challenged China’s excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea May 6, 2019, angering Beijing.

The guided-missile destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of two Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratly Islands, the US Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Commander Clay Doss told Reuters.

The operation, the third by the US Navy in the South China Sea this year, was specifically intended “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” he said.


Beijing was critical of the operation, condemning it as it has done on previous occasions.

“The relevant moves by the U.S. warships have infringed on China’s sovereignty and undermined peace and security in relevant waters. We firmly oppose that,” Geng Shuang, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, told reporters at a press briefing May 6, 2019.

“China urges the United States to stop these provocative actions,” he added.

China bristles at these operations, often accusing the US of violating its sovereignty by failing to request permission from China to enter what it considers Chinese territorial waters. The US does not acknowledge China’s claims to the South China Sea, which were discredited by an international tribunal three years ago.

The 7th Fleet said that these operations were designed to “demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

(Stratfor)

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy identified and warned off the US Navy vessels. The ships do not appear to have encountered anything like what the USS Decatur ran up against last September, when a Chinese destroyer attempted to force the ship off course, risking a collision.

The US Navy is not only challenging China in the South China Sea, though. It is also ruffling Beijing’s feathers by sending warships through the closely watched Taiwan Strait on the regular. The US has conducted four of these transits this year, each time upsetting Beijing.

The latest operation in the South China Sea comes as trade-war tensions are expected to rise in the coming days. US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to significantly increase trade penalties and tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports in response to Beijing’s unwillingness to bend on trade.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Popeye the Sailor Man was originally Popeye the Coast Guardsman

This may seem like blasphemy to some, but Popeye started his professional career as a civilian mariner and then Coast Guardsman. The famous sailor did join the Navy, but as of 1937, Popeye was firmly in the Coast Guard. A two-reel feature titled Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves introduces Popeye serving at a Coast Guard station. The sailor man’s creator did not live to see the United States enter World War II, but it was in 1941 that his creation joined the Navy and the legend of Popeye the rough and tumble U.S. Navy sailor was born.


Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Popeye the Sailor meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves wasn’t Popeye’s first feature. He started life as a character in the comic strip Thimble Theater in 1929, a comic actually centered around his off-and-on girlfriend, Olive Oyl. When it became obvious that Popeye was the real star, he made a jump to feature films. In the aforementioned 1937 film is when we see Popeye in the Coast Guard, on guard duty and deploying to intercept “Abu Hassan” (aka Bluto), who is terrorizing the Middle East.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Spoiler alert: Popeye saves the day, but not before telling Bluto to “stop in the name of the Coast Guard.

It was during WWII that Popeye reached his incredible popularity. After enlisting in the Navy in 1941’s The Mighty Navy, Popeye’s clothing changed and reflected his status as a U.S. Navy sailor, wearing the distinctive white crackerjack uniform. Popeye would remain in uniform until 1978, when new cartoons put him back in his original outfit, with one exception: the white yachting cap he used to wear was replaced with a standard issue Navy “Dixie Cup” cap.

It should be noted that Popeye and Bluto once attempted to join the Army in a 1936 film short called I’m In the Army Now, but they really just ended up fighting in the recruiter’s office. Popeye left the office after beating Bluto to a surrender, but without actually joining. Popeye also regularly beats Bluto to the tune of “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”

Despite his dedication to service, Popeye never once tried to join the Air Force.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the new Marine sniper rifle relates to a former record holder

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Marines getting a new sniper rifle that’s forcing the legendary M40 into secondary roles. What you may not know, however, is that the new rifle, the Mk 13 Mod 7, is closely related to the weapon used by Craig Harrison to record one of the longest-range kills in history.


The Mk 13 Mod 7 is based on Accuracy International’s Arctic Warfare sniper rifle, which has been sold to civilians, militaries, and police forces around the globe. The version used by the Marine Corps is chambered for the .300 Winchester Magnum round, uses a five-round detachable magazine, and has an effective range of roughly 1,300 yards. Other versions of the rifle are available, chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO and .338 Lapua.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison used the L115A3 version of the Accuracy International Arctic Warfare Magnum to make the record shot in 2009.

(Photo by Mike Searson)

Accuracy International offers an even more powerful version of this rifle, the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which has been acquired by a number of forces internationally. The AWM comes chambered in either .300 Winchester Magnum or .338 Lapua. In 2009, this rifle (using .338 Lapua rounds) was used by Corporal of Horse Craig Harrison to kill a Taliban machine-gun team from a distance of 2,707 yards — a record at the time.

That record was shattered last year when an unidentified sniper with Canada’s Joint Task Force 2 took out a terrorist with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria using a MacMillan Tac-50. The shot was fired from a staggering 3,871 yards away.

Viking warriors: Separating fact from fiction

The L115A3 rifle, which held the record for the longest sniper kill until May 2017.

(Photo by UK Ministry of Defense)

Prior to the Global War on Terror, the mark for the longest sniper kill in history was held by Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock of the United States Marine Corps, who used a modified M2 machine gun to take out an enemy at 2,500 yards in 1967. Since then, the record has been eclipsed four times, including twice in March 2002 by Canadian snipers in Afghanistan.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. Navy veteran detained in Iran freed, on his way home

U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, who has been detained in Iran for nearly two years, is returning home as part of a prisoner swap between Washington and Tehran.

White’s release on June 4 is part of a back-channel deal involving the release of an American-Iranian doctor prosecuted in the United States, U.S. and Iranian officials said.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter he had spoken by phone with White, who took a Swiss plane to Zurich on his way to the United States.

“Thank you to Iran, it shows a deal is possible!” Trump wrote, in an apparent olive branch to Iran.

White was sentenced to 13 years in prison last year for allegedly insulting Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and posting private information online.

In March, he was temporarily released on medical grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Swiss Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.

The navy veteran was detained in July 2018 while he was visiting a woman he had met online and fallen in love with.

White’s mother, Joanne White, said in a statement that “the nightmare is over, and my son is safely in American custody and on his way home.”

The AP news agency quoted U.S. officials as saying his release was part of an agreement involving Majid Taheri, an Iranian-American physician prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Taheri served 16 months for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and on June 4 a federal judge released him to go see family in Iran.

The developments follow the deportation to Iran this week of Sirios Asgari, an Iranian scientist detained in the United States.

U.S. and Iranian officials have denied that Asgari’s release was part of a prisoner swap.

Switzerland, the intermediary between the U.S. and Iranian governments, has facilitated months of quiet negotiations over prisoners, reports said. Qatar, which has good relations with both the United States and Iran, reportedly also facilitated the prisoner swap.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter he was pleased the two Iranians and White will join their families.

“This can happen for all prisoners. No need for cherry picking. Iranian hostages held in — and on behalf of — the U.S. should come home,” he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iranian authorities had been “constructive” on freeing White but urged the release of three other U.S. citizens, all of Iranian descent, who are detained in Iran.

Observers have speculated that prisoner swaps can offer a rare opportunity for back-channel diplomacy between the two adversaries to start official dialogue, but few see any serious progress before the U.S. election in November.

Relations between Washington and Tehran have become increasingly hostile since 2018, when Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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